“We didn’t know how different it was going to be visually, and the fact that they have these elephants and cobras and things,” Allison said. “It was quite astonishing to see how different it is from anything that we’ve covered before on coffee.” Starbucks is important to the Seattle economy, because the company employs so many people locally, and because its financial health can be used as a barometer in tough economic times: When money gets tight, people cut out small luxuries like coffee, Allison said.

There are plans to publish a travel diary of the trip on the Times website after an unrelated story runs about a Seattle NGO’s anti-poverty effort in India, the third piece that Allison reported while she was away. It was this story that fulfilled the requirements for the Seattle International Foundation grant needed to fund Allison’s trip, according to Simon.

Last year, the Times stretched that grant money to pay for the India trip and pieces by staff and freelancers in Afghanistan, Uganda, Nicaragua, and Sudan, as well as a weekly column called the Seattle Globalist by local journalist Sarah Stuteville.

“This is the first time we ever received a grant for a broad area of coverage,” Simon said, “and this is the first time the foundation has funded journalism. They give us very broad parameters for the types of stories we want to run.”

“I think we’ll see more of papers using this kind of funding to do stories that aren’t immediately in the news,” he added. “They are something we haven’t been able to do nearly as much of in the last 10 years.”

 

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Hazel Sheffield is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @hazelsheffield.